Last week's review of The Mandalorian season 3 episode 1 highlighted how Chapter 17 was built to let audiences know what had changed during The Book of Boba Fett, what the next step in Din Djarin's journey was, and why we loved this show in the first place. It was a lot to tackle within 30 minutes, and while everything clicked together and delivered classic Star Wars fun, the episode felt largely unfocused and too fast at times.
With Chapter 18 'The Mines of Mandalore,' Jon Favreau immediately justifies such an odd premiere and quickly gets to work on the Mandalore plot. In fact, a good chunk of what we thought would take up most of season 3 has now been resolved, leaving the remaining six episodes in mostly unknown territory for fans and casual viewers alike.
Spoilers ahead for The Mandalorian season 3 episode 2 - Chapter 18: 'The Mines of Mandalore'
Chapter 18's opening is a huge red herring, as Din and Grogu return to Tatooine to ask Amy Sedaris' Peli Motto for the droid part he needs. This pit stop makes sense and also seemed logical to bring back Boba Fett and Cobb Vanth into the picture. However, the episode is as far as possible from being another Tatooine side quest chapter, and the charming Mos Eisley hustler doesn’t have a positive answer for Din and instead sells A New Hope veteran astromech R5-D4 (who was already hanging around in past seasons) to him.
R5-D4 is gonna fall apart any second and exhibits the literal opposite of R2-D2’s bravery, but it’s true he could get the Mandalore job done – analyzing the atmosphere and doing some quick scouting for Din – and help in future spacefaring adventures. Now, the Mandalorian’s N-1 starfighter is fully equipped with an astromech, which means that Grogu gets to share more bonding time with his adoptive dad inside the cockpit.
At this point, we think it's important to underline how good this episode looks. Mind you, The Mandalorian is a consistently nice-looking TV series crafted by a team of professionals that make the budget sing, but Rachel Morrison's (the cinematographer behind Mudbound and Black Panther) touch can be felt all over Chapter 18, making it one of the most cinematic pieces of Star Wars television so far. We hope she returns to direct more The Mandalorian episodes for season 4 and beyond.
Back to the plot, there are no more pit stops between Tatooine and Mandalore, and Din spends some time telling Grogu the basics about the planet and its (almost extinct) civilization of warriors despite never having been there. He also mentions growing up on the moon of Concordia, which lines up with what we knew about his clan and its dark past. Kalevala, Bo-Katan's planet from last episode, is briefly name-dropped too, underlining it’s in the same system – that will be useful later.
As we arrive on Mandalore, Chapter 18 slows down and takes its time to tell this week's story and let Din Djarin and Grogu breathe, as this isn't just another random planet. There isn’t a big side quest in this episode either, but of course, obstacles are in the way…
Unsurprisingly, R5-D4 goes missing shortly after it goes off to explore a crack on the planet’s crystalized surface (Imperial bombing messed up everything quite bad), and we’re quickly introduced to cavemen-like aliens – later named Alamites – who used to live in the "surface wastelands." Din dispatches them without major complications, but once again, we see he’s not very graceful with the Darksaber – the Armorer explained in Chapter 5 of The Book of Boba Fett there’s a technique to it which Din hasn’t mastered yet.
What follows is a brief exploration of the (now underground) ruins of Sundari, the former capital city of Mandalore. It's our first live-action look at this major Star Wars location, and seeing it almost as dead as Pompeii feels kind of sad if you're a Clone Wars fan. For Din, however, it’s almost a dream coming true.
After venturing deeper into the city's underbelly, where creepy creatures lurk in the shadows, Din comes across an old Mandalorian helmet. We are expecting another history lesson from him (or at least a moment of reflection), but Favreau is smart and pulls the rug out from under our feet with a surprise attack by … a massive claw? Is this another giant monster? No, the reality is much weirder!
Din has been captured by a flea-looking mech that seems straight out of Terminator or The Matrix. Moreover, there’s (part of) a living being controlling it. And it gets even better when it steps out of the mech and creeps around in an unsettling cyborg body that might be a callback to General Grievous. We don’t know its name yet, but this has to be one of the creepiest live-action Star Wars characters ever, and we love it. Chapter 17 already introduced a very Marvel-ish alien in pirate king Gorian Shard, and this new horror also looks like it belongs in an obscure Star Wars comic book.
What follows is perhaps the coolest part of Chapter 18, as a light-headed Din instructs Grogu to put what he has learned to good use and get help from Bo-Katan on his own (remember that Kalevala is close by). Our little green friend finally becomes more than just a mcguffin or the cute kid that often becomes a deus ex machina, racing off in his hovering pram (we’re awed by its capabilities), Force-pushing an Alamite out of his way, and reaching their ship in no time. Thankfully, the previously recovered R5-D4 can pilot the ship and take them to the planet which Grogu desperately points at on the computer.
Bo-Katan is annoyed by the apparent return of Din Djarin, literally shouting at his ship that she wants to keep behaving like an emo teenager. But she acts on the urgent info right away and goes off to save Din in her Mandalorian starfighter. Chapter 18 changes gears again, essentially making Katee Sackhoff the co-star, a much-needed change of pace for her character, who has been often criticized as not too interesting on her own.
We believe that was a fair criticism, as Bo-Katan has always worked in tandem with other major Star Wars characters since her inception, but she’s a key part of the Mandalorian puzzle at this point, so further work needed to be done on her personal story and behavior, especially for those viewers who haven’t watched the animated series. Sackhoff clearly took advantage of this opportunity, delivering a less constrained performance that puts some humanity and reason into the character, with Favreau’s script illustrating why she’s doing what she’s doing in a more intimate way.
After dispatching another group of Alamites (and giving us the Wookieepedia entry on them), she makes her way to the creepy creature's workshop. The cyborg can defend itself even outside the mech, but Bo-Katan quickly gets the upper hand once she grabs the Darksaber and kills it (and its mech) with relative ease and displaying an agility with the sword Din can only dream of.
This brief action scene, together with the respite that follows, poses the question of who is more fit to carry to sword – Bo-Katan is the answer here, but she doesn't want to just grab it – and whether both of them are wrong about their respective beliefs about Mandalorian culture. We've only seen one quarter of what this season has to offer, but Favreau is already in the middle of resolving the more spiritual conflict.
A third walk – the episode’s biggest problem is the repetition of scenarios and movement – through the ruins of Sundari finally brings Din Djarin to the famous Living Waters of Mandalore. Apparently, the entrance was “right there” in plain sight, since the Waters were an important location for Mandalorians, but Din kept going down instead, looking for something closer to the Mines of Moria.
The Mandalorian’s careless day is far from over though. As he steps into the water to "cleanse" his sins through a second baptism of sorts, he plops down like a rock after a sharp drop, which highlights how heavy a full suit of beskar armor truly is. Bo-Katan jumps into the abyss (it’s a huge drop, actually) and brings him up thanks to her jetpack. But before the episode ends, a kaiju-sized living mythosaur – they were supposed to be extinct – wakes up and moves deeper into the underwater darkness.
For the final scene of the second episode of season 3, this is a reveal almost as big as that of the Darksaber at the end of Chapter 8. We thought it'd take Din a few episode to reach Mandalore and take a bath, plus it appears there won’t be a conflict at all between the Kryze heir and him. So what’s next? Well, the legendary mythosaur might be the "unifying' solution that Bo-Katan needs, and it seems that her and a now-unburdened Din will be working together for a while. We should never trust the marketing!